North Platte (Class of 1944)
“Bullet” Jack McCartney blended speed, drive and a change of pace that made him one of the most dangerous football players of his time. Tagged as Nebraska’s best high school athlete in his sophomore year, McCartney made a name for himself in track, winning all-class gold medals in the 100- and 220-yard dashes as well as the broad jump during his junior season. An injury prevented him from defending his titles his senior year. All-state in football and a three-year basketball letterman, McCartney served in the Navy before playing football at Northwestern University. After suffering a fractured pelvis, he transferred to the University of Nebraska to complete his college education.
A devotion to the sport of basketball and a pursuit of excellence helped Duane Mendlik put together a career of more than 650 victories ╨ second-highest in Nebraska boys basketball history. A 35-year stint at West Point Central Catholic and a decade at Wisner-Pilger resulted in 15 state-tournament appearances. He coached West Point Central Catholic to back-to-back state championships in 1998 and 1999 and a runner-up finish in 2003. He also has coached football and boys golf.
Few can match the diverse success enjoyed by John Miller. A 36-year coaching career garnered seven state championships and more than 700 victories in girls’ and boys’ basketball and football. His longest tenure came as the Chambers girls’ basketball coach where his teams won five state championships, four runner-up trophies and 585 games. The Coyotes put together an 87-game win streak. After 30 years coaching girls at Chambers, he moved to boys’ basketball, first at Chambers/Wheeler Central then Southern Valley. In six years at Southern Valley, his teams notched 124 wins and captured Class C2 state championship in 2014. Miller also coached the Chambers football team for 13 years, winning 77 games and the 2007 state title.
At Centura High School, Kathy Mettenbrink was simply known as “Coach.” Her 34-year career as the Centurions girls basketball coach resulted in 549 wins, 11 state tournament appearances and two runner-up finishes. But her biggest accomplishments can’t be quantified by numbers. “She turned a lot of average players into great ones,” one of her players said. Despite its small size, Centura saw more than its share of girls become college basketball players. Mettenbrink put her all into coaching. Starting in elementary school, where she taught physical education, Mettenbrink challenged her girls physically and mentally, teaching integrity, hard work, respect, perseverance and teamwork.
Superior (Class of 1980)
When Rick Meyer spins around, the discus usually sails a long way. By the time he was named the Hastings Tribune’s Prep Athlete of the Year in 1980, Meyer had already embarked on a record-setting career. The first Nebraska prepster to eclipse the 190-foot mark, Meyer won the all-class gold medal as a junior and the Class B gold medal as a senior. Also all-area in football and basketball, Meyer accepted a track scholarship to the University of Houston where he was a three-time Southwest Conference champion, a five-time All-American (twice in the shot put) and the NCAA champion in 1985 and runner-up in 1983. His senior year he set the NCAA meet record of 209-10. Ranked in the top 10 in the U.S. for nine years, Meyer placed fifth in the Goodwill Games in Moscow in 1986 and was an alternate for the Olympics in 1992. His younger brother, Andy, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009.
Wayne (Class of 1963)
Don Meyer made his mark nationally as a successful and legendary college basketball coach, setting a record with 923 wins at Hamline (MN) University, Lipscomb (TN) University and Northern State (SD), but his playing accomplishments can’t be overlooked. The only player at Wayne High School to have his jersey retired, Meyer averaged 20 points per game as a junior and 26.5 points per game as a senior for teams that were a combined 32-5. He also starred as a pitcher on Wayne’s first high school team and its American Legion team. At the University of Northern Colorado, Meyer was a four-year starter in basketball, leading the Bears in scoring his junior and senior seasons. He also went 22-2 as a pitcher on the UNC baseball team that nearly qualified for the College World Series. He has been inducted into Wayne High School, Northern Colorado and the NAIA Halls of Fame, and is the subject of the movie, My Many Sons.
Sidney (Class of 1952)
Jon McWilliams was noted for his speed. Labeled “Greased Lighting” after a three-touchdown performance against Oshkosh, the Sidney senior sprinted to Class B all-state honors in football and the 120-yard high hurdles silver medal at the state track meet, helping his team win the state title. McWilliams, who lettered all four years in high school in all three sports, was also a mainstay on the basketball team. Selected as Western Nebraska’s Football MVP by the Scottsbluff Star-Herald, McWilliams went on to earn All-Big Seven honors at Nebraska after being switched to end. One of the first black players of the modern era, McWilliams was a three-year letterman in football and ran track for the Huskers. He played one year for the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the Canadian Football League.
Contributor. Considered the “Father” of Nebraska high school sports writing because of a long, noted career with the Omaha World-Herald. His weekly ratings of high school basketball and football teams began in the 1930s and created enormous interest in high school athletics. He wrote sports from 1917 to 1967, mostly for the World-Herald, and was never equaled in readership nor surpassed in the respect his work received from sports fans. A native of Stella and a Nebraska Wesleyan graduate, McBride made good use of letters to the editor, where most of the critics took him to task over his top 10 ratings. He also was the subject of much good-natured interaction with his readers, the most famous the presentation to him by some Seward fans of a typewriter with all the keys chopped off except SEWARD, with a note that said, from now on, all his top 10 ratings would have to start with their favorite school.
He started the Omaha World-Herald Athletic Roll of Honor Star of the Week award whereby a card would be issued to the named player. Those cards were treasured by those fortunate enough to have been selected as “Star of the Week” by none other than Gregg McBride.
Contributor. Con Marshall worked as the Sports Information Director at Chadron State College from 1969 until he retired in 2007, at the same time developing an interest in high school sports in the Nebraska Panhandle. Marshall undertook the painstaking project of compiling football records for the high school teams in the 11 Panhandle counties. He also maintained basketball and track records for the high schools in northwest Nebraska. He brought more recognition to the region’s high school athletes by working as a writer, editor and columnist for the Chadron Record, Scottsbluff Star-Herald, Sidney Telegraph and other publications.
Athlete. The premier Nebraska high school long jumper of the 1930s, Jim Mather was a 1936 graduate of Arapahoe High School in Furnas County. He was years ahead of others in this track & field event and capped his career in 1936 at the state track meet by jumping 23 feet, 4 inches, a record which lasted in Class C until the 1970s. He was also the winning Class C 220 yard sprint champion at the ‘36 state meet. A four-year varsity man at Arapahoe High in both football and track, he was a Peru State College star in both track and football.
Another point in history: James Mather held the long jump record for all classes between 1936 and 1961 when a great leap by Gale Sayers (24-10) took away that honor.
ARAPAHOE — James D. “Jim” Mather, 85, of Arapahoe died Sunday, Oct. 12, 2003, at his home. He graduated from Arapahoe Public Schools in 1936 and attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln from 1936 to 1937 and Peru State College from 1939 to 1941.